Images of the Savior (6 - Joshua's Victory Over Many Enemies)
After the fierce anger of the Lord against that which was accursed among the people had been turned away by the utter destruction of Achan and his family, Joshua and the people of Israel enjoyed great success in their warfare against all the nations surrounding them; but the enemies of the people did not just lie down and die, but the more clearly they saw their advancing doom, the more they raged and schemed and strove against the certain victory of Israel's captain, and sought by any means possible to subvert them. First of all, one hostile nation tried to infiltrate the people by deception, and had some measure of success; and then, a great king arose in Jerusalem, and gathered other kings unto himself, and waged a last great assault against Israel, hoping utterly to defeat them once and for all; but instead, they were put to a terrible end, for the Lord fought for Israel, and did great and wonderful things that had never been seen before. How this all happened, and what it foreshadowed, will be the subject of our enquiry.
Before we peer into these wonderful events, we must remind ourselves, again, that the history of Israel, which was preparing the way for the coming of the great King of kings, was all designed by God for our instruction (see Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11), so that we might learn by their example how God's people must fight against all their enemies; not indeed enemies of flesh and blood, as Israel did the first time, but rather against forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12), and against every high thought that lifts itself up against Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-6). If we would learn from the example of Israel's conquest of Canaan, then let us look to the second Joshua, that great and final Savior of the people, and take up our arms against the forces of deceptive doctrines of demons (see 1 Tim. 4:1), and anti-christian philosophies (1 John 4:1-6), until we have triumphed over the lies of the Enemy, not just in Canaan, but in the whole world, which belongs to us who are Abraham's children by faith as a sure inheritance in the coming age (see Rom. 4:13-16).
Let us note, then, in the case of the Gibeonite deception, that when brute force does not avail to overcome the people of God, their enemies will often try deception and lies, instead. Gibeon saw that their defeat was certain, and so, by trickery, they got Joshua to make a covenant with them, not to destroy them; and he, not first seeking the will of the Lord, was caught in their snares, and made them a promise, and was thenceforth unable to destroy them as he ought to have done.
Oh, that the leaders of God's Church would learn from this tragic example! How often have the elders and shepherds of the Church fallen prey to this same folly? The rage of bloodthirsty Rome failed to crush the unstoppable force of Christianity, for God was fighting for his Church, and the blood of the martyrs became seed, and the Gospel spread over all the earth. Finally, that last apostate Emperor, Julian, was forced on his deathbed to acknowledge, â€œYou have conquered, Galileanâ€. Just as Joshua gained victory over all the nations, so the gospel witnesses of the Church, mighty in word and faithfulness, got the victory over all the great might of Rome.
But then, when Rome failed to win by force, they resorted to trickery and deception. The Enemy slowly infiltrated the Church with his scheming lies and deceptions, and soon had his cohorts sown far and wide among the people of God, planted as tares in their midst. What the emperors of Rome had failed to do, those later Roman tyrants, in the Vatican, soon had almost accomplished. Gibeon was among the people, and the lying doctrines of Antichrist gained a firm hold, until the whole Church was in grave danger. How sober and wise must we be, who care for God's Church! How humbly ought we to seek God's counsel and be on guard against the wolves and false prophets, and exercise discipline in accordance with the Lord's commands (Mat. 18:15-20), to protect the purity of the Church! How many churches and denominations have altogether lost the gospel, because they succumbed to the Gibeonite deception, and let traitors and heretics thrive in their midst?
But let us go back to our story; for even though Joshua greatly erred in this matter, and even though he could no longer destroy the Gibeonites as he should have done, yet he made them drawers of water and hewers of wood, serving the altar of God by their menial labor (Joshua 9:22-23). So too, although there are Gibeonite heretics among us, the Lord has told us, â€œLet them be for now; when the end of the age has come, then they will be gathered together out of my fields, and burned with unquenchable fire (see Mat. 13:24-30, 36-43). They too have their purpose, and are designed for the good of the Church. â€œIt is necessary that their be heresies among you,â€ Paul told the church in Corinth, â€œso that those who are approved might be manifest in youâ€ (1 Cor. 11:19). The heretics prove the genuine believers by testing them with evil doctrines, just as fire proves the pure silver and burns away the dross. And in this way, heretics serve the good of the Church, even as the Gibeonites served in the House of God. After all, what has driven the Church to clarify and seek out the wonderful mystery of the Holy Trinity, but the Arians and other heretics? What has driven her to cling tightly to the precious doctrines of God's free justification by faith alone in Christ but the blasphemies of the Vatican? This is a very important lesson for us to learn.
So much, then, for the Gibeonite deception; but we must look now to the next event in our history, viz., the great assault of Adoni-Zedek, king of Jerusalem. Now, we must remember what we have learned from the letter to the Hebrews, that one of the outstanding types of the Savior in all the Old Testament was Melchizedek, the King of Salem, in part because his name means King of Righteousness and he was also King of Salem, that is, of Peace â€“ just as our Lord is the King of Righteousness and Peace (Hebrews 7:1-3). Now, this Adoni-Zedek had a name which means Lord of Righteousness, and he was most likely king of the same place, although it is here called Jerusalem and no longer just Salem (cf. Psalm 76:2). And so we see that this king, by a mysterious, divine foreshadowing, is represented in our text as being in many respects like the true type of the Savior, Melchizedek, although in truth he is utterly contrary to him. Thus, we may view him as a foreshadow of Antichrist, who represents himself as the true Christ, and would call himself the King of Righteousness and Peace, but is really an impostor.
Now, let us see what this Adoni-Zedek, the so-called â€œLord of Righteousnessâ€ does. Seeing that the advance of the Church is certain, he gathers together all the warring nations of Canaan, and subverts them to his will, to wreak havoc on Joshua and his people. But in response, the Lord himself fights against him from heaven, and does something never before heard of, stopping the sun in the midst of the heavens for a whole day. Then, Adoni-Zedek and the kings are cast down to the earth, and all of Israel's leaders place their feet on their necks; and they are all killed and hanged on trees, and then cast into a cave which is sealed with great stones. These stones still stand as a testimony that those kings are in their graves, and defeated. Afterwards, Joshua finishes his conquest, and finds victory over all the remaining nations in the land of Canaan.
When we remember that Israel's fleshly warfare was an example to us of the spiritual warfare of the Church, we may see how this great defeat and the completion of the conquest foreshadows the end of the age, when the Church will have been successful in spreading the gospel to all the nations of the world. For at that time, Antichrist, whose spirit is already at work in the world, will subvert whole nations and kings to rage against God's people â€“ as indeed, all the world over, at many times, they always have. But the Lord himself will suddenly return from heaven, and put an end to this world as we know it, and dissolve all the elements with a great heat (cf. 2 Thes. 1:6-10; 2 Pet. 3); and there will then be no more sun or moon, because he will be the Light of his people (Rev. 21:23-24). This is foreshadowed by how the sun stood still, as if to say, when the spiritual victory over Antichrist is accomplished, as this great victory foreshadows, then time will be no more, and the sun and moon will no longer be needed in their revolutions through the sky. Thus, the defeat of the so-called Lord of Righteousness, who stirs up the kings of this world and sets himself up as the true King of Righteousness, looks ahead to the final victory at the end of the age, when the true King comes from heaven and gives victory to his people.
Now, we have seen that this Lord of Righteousness is an impostor who, by divinely-ordered foreshadowing, is set forth in the text as one who seems to be, but is not, Christ. Thus, at the end of the battle, when he and his kings are made to bow down their necks beneath the feet of Israel, and are then hanged on trees and thrown into a cave, which is sealed with a stone, it is as if the divine author of this account is saying, â€œYou make yourself out to be the Christ? Well then, I will make you follow the same path that the Christ will follow, and you will see if you are able to walk itâ€. And so, just as the Christ suffered and was hanged on a tree, and then went into a cave which was sealed with a great stone, so these kings were made to do the same thing; only, the stone was rolled away from the grave of the true Christ three days later, and he was no longer there; but the stones are still in front of the graves of these so-called kings and lords of righteousness, and they are still there moldering. Just as the Lord went through God's wrath, so too will Antichrist and all his minions; but the Lord overcame it all, and arose from the dead to great glory and vindication; but these will never rise, but will spend eternity in the lake of the fire of God's fierce wrath.
So then, this great victory, and the mysterious and wonderful signs of the arrest of the heavenly bodies in their paths, and of the defeat and hanging and burial of the counterfeit lord of righteousness and all the kings he has gathered together give us much hope, for they signify the end of the spiritual struggle of the Church, when all the antichrists and false prophets who deceive and rage against the true Joshua and his people will be utterly destroyed, and cast into an eternal grave; and then, the people will inherit the new earth, where there is no more need of sun or moon for light. Beloved, if God so gave the victory to the first savior of the people, Joshua, will he not also give us the victory in the final Savior, Jesus? Take heart then, be strong and courageous in your fight against sin, be wise as serpents and do not let the clever lies of the Enemy overcome you, for soon, this world will come to an end. But we await a new heavens and a new earth, according to his promise, and the true King of Righteousness, who will reign over the Jerusalem which is above, which he will bring down to the earth, and establish forevermore in righteousness and peace.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!